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Crazy Like That: Savagely Picante

Updated: Mar 4

If you've followed Kara's blog since I started writing it, you might recall a serial essay I began in October called "Crazy Like That," aka the Death of Picante Saga. It started as a look back at the hellish summer leading to the bodily end of my wife and morphed into a Dark Night of the Soul diary of caregiver's guilt. Or anyway that is how I see it. It was written during a time of acute panic attacks, suicide ideation, and what I suppose you might call PTSD. (Common enough symptoms of grief, I am told.) I am glad I wrote it though, because it seems to have been useful to some readers. And it helped me. By giving my guilt demon a voice, I learned to identify it and shield myself from its persuasive tactics. Not that I'm no longer haunted by my actions at various junctures before and during Kara's cancer journey... but I do at least recognize that this demon is a manifestation of love seeking a larger container than our culture can provide. Writing "Crazy Like That" helped me to observe myself struggling with the truth that my worldview desperately needed the initiation of a revamp. Along the way, I hoped what came across resonated with others going through their own personal collapse. And maybe even inspired them to try and revamp their own worldview.

Growing up, Kara was taught that she was nothing special. Entering the medical system, and living with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis in a society that is pitifully unable to give a proper account of mortality, she was told that she was, again, nothing special. A statistic. A data point. But she said, "Screw that," and stuck only with the healthcare workers who believed in her abilities and saw the woman outside their chart notes. And time and again she showed those of us who paid attention that you can live and die (we're all living and dying, by the way, there's no Other in that business) with soaring imagination and indomitable will and to hell with the Kubler-Ross model and cancer death rates and someone else's dogma of pain management. She showed us this, because she truly wanted to help others see that there can always be a different way when you are faced with something catastrophic. Last summer, that different way led to some bizarre, brutal, absurd, incredible (some might say unnecessary, but let them live in their comfortable notions of efficiency), mind-blowingly loving moments of transformation for all who were intimately involved with it. Last summer was "Crazy Like That." It didn't have to just be sad and inevitable in hindsight... even the act of evolving out of this plane of existence can offer insight and inspiration. That, ultimately, is what motivated me to write the Death of Picante Saga. And that is why I want to break from where I left off in December and expand the essay into, I guess you might call it a memoir.

In the meantime, here is the unedited original ending to "Crazy Like That," which I actually wrote at the beginning:

"...Kara told her surgeon three years ago that if she determined it was time to die then she would do so like a rock star. And she did. Her death was wild, weird, spectacular, bloody, funny, eerie, messy, and full of attitude. And I am devastated but in awe of how she met what all of us will one day face. Forget the cliches. She did not just waste away. A victim to cancer. She rode that thing like a wild beast and killed it, because it’s now nothing but ashes in the same vessel with the rest of her. We speak of death as a kind of theft or breakdown. Sure. It is also the source of life and it is a personal act of transformation. Some people just get a chance to do it in a way that is cool as fucking hell, and if they take that chance, it is as cool as it is hard to watch and support. I love Kara in her last days, every bit as much as I love her in her healthiest days. Yes, we argued a lot that summer, It was raw, it was a rock 'n' roll show right to the end. Savage. But so loving. That is how I helped take her as far as I could to the threshold of the underworld. That is why I followed her into the Mountains of Love and Fire knowing with a fair amount of certainty that only one of us would come back down. That is why I want to write this series. So that her death doesn’t lurk in the shadows. We can grieve, but we can celebrate her journey even after she became too challenged to share it herself. Kara was a fucking warrior. A glittering unicorn warrior."

Until next time.

--Incredible custom Kara Picante urn by artist Fatima Hoang!



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